Were I to make a film focusing on an item of food, I would tell the tale of a single green pepper. Our story would begin with a crane shot of a slow descent from above a windswept treeline to a northern California field, where hundreds of laborers work under the hot sun. There, a Mexican illegal immigrant would wipe the sweat from his brow, pluck the green pepper from a branch and toss it into an overflowing basket. This is not just the life of one green pepper, the shot would imply, but the life of everygreen pepper. We would follow our protagonist onto a truck, to the warehouse, to the supermarket -- all promise and hope, quick-cutting montages and snappy music. Then, in a morbid twist, we would track our green pepper to a greasy diner, where it would be cruelly chopped into a thousand pieces and stuffed into a breakfast burrito. As he lay dying, the pepper would imagine that same field where he was born, transporting himself beyond the horror and pain of the cruel world, back to the calm of those windswept trees, and he would smile.
My screenplay remains unsold. For now.
Fortunately, other filmmakers' visions for films focusing on food have been slightly more inspired -- or at least accepted by mass audiences -- and the Central Denver Public Library, 10 West 14th Avenue, has selected a handful to include in its Slice of Life: Food on Film series, opening tonight at 6:30 p.m. with Big Night, a complex film about the love of food and the search for individuality starring Stanley Tucci and Tony Shalhoub. The five-week series also includes Babette's Feast, Like Water for Chocolate and Scotland, Pa., a macabre indie flick. In addition to movies, a Saturday series will feature chef demonstrations; the first of these is "In the Raw -- Raw Food Chef & Author Juliano," with tips from celebrity chef and "uncooking" guru Juliano on March 5 at 10:30 a.m.
If you have a thing for chicks in checks, don't miss tonight's Women Cook at the Colorado Convention Center, 700 14th Street. Starting at 6 p.m., six of Denver's top women chefs -- Pat Perry of Highland Garden Cafe; Jennifer Jasinski of Rioja; Amy Vitale of Strings; Rebecca Wietzman of Cafe Star; Elise Wiggins of Panzano; and Sheila Lucero of Jax Fish House -- will put on a show to benefit Work Options for Women and the Women's Bean Project, two food-related charities. The evening starts with a cocktail hour, when each chef will prepare a signature appetizer -- such as Perry's duck and goat cheese piled on dried plums -- and culminates with a multi-course meal envisioned and executed by all six toques, with help from the ladies of WOW and the Women's Bean Project. For tickets, $125, and more information, call 303-292-1919, ext. 230, or visit www.womensbeanproject.com. -- Corey Helland
The Big O
Even at age 77, Oscar is still the talk of Tinseltown. Locally, the Magnolia Hotel, 818 17th Street, is the official hot spot for those who want to get down with the golden boy tonight; the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences sanctions just one party per city. Bill Clarke, Channel 7's entertainment authority, will be Denver's grand host at the Party With Oscar, which benefits the Denver Film Society. The $150 ticket buys dinner from Sambuca, a silent auction of movie memorabilia and plenty of giant silver screens broadcasting the live show. The Academy Awards party starts at 6 p.m. and won't stop until Chris Rock settles the showdown between local boy Don Cheadle and pretty boy Johnny Depp. For tickets, call 303-595-3456, ext. 15; for more information, visit www.denverfilm.org. -- Kity Ironton
Cliff Janeway is back!
Mystery novelist John Dunning launched a best-selling franchise in the early '90s with a pair of books about Cliff Janeway, a Denver cop turned rare-books dealer -- then waited nearly a decade to pen the series' third installment. That's eons in a genre whose fans are accustomed to authors churning out a book every year. When the cork came loose, though, a torrent followed. Right behind last year's long-awaited novel is The Sign of the Book, scheduled for release in early March.
"I'm not really a slow writer," protests Dunning, who will sign copies of his new novel tonight at the Denver Book Mall, 32 Broadway. Instead, the gap was due to publishing projects related to his other passion: old-time radio broadcasting. With a novel and an encyclopedia on that subject completed, Dunning's attention refocused on the books-and-crimes novels that made him a literary hero to book collectors. (They rewarded Dunning in their customary fashion: Scarce first editions of Booked to Die, the novel that marked Janeway's debut, sell for upwards of $500.)
Dunning writes about territory that's familiar from his previous careers as a police reporter for the Denver Post, then as a book dealer running the Old Algonquin Bookstore on East Colfax Avenue for a decade. Though the shop closed in 1994, Dunning and his wife, Helen, still run Old Algonquin as an online catalogue business, featuring some of the 11,000 books that live in their basement.